Greenville, SC- If you have not heard the story of Red Sox pitching prospect Durin O’Linger, I’ll catch you up to speed.
O’Linger went undrafted from Davidson College and had no plans to play professional baseball. The 5’10” right-hander was prepared to go to pharmacy school at the University of Florida when he got an offer from the Boston Red Sox organization. The team’s interest was piqued after a standout performance during his senior year tournament season on the back of a mid-80’s fastball. He took the relatively paltry deal in 2017, pursuing a dream that was not thought to be possible.
This season, which is his second year of pro ball, he has split time between three different levels. The 24-year-old currently finds himself with the Greenville Drive. He has been in the bullpen and rotation but has been mostly deployed as a reliever. O’Linger has pitched to the tune of a 3.18 ERA and 3.55 FIP in close to 30 innings with the team this season.
He has found success pitching for a team that plays half its games in a town some have dubbed “the Silicon Valley of the South.” As stated, he does not have much in the way of velocity, so he has to find success in different ways.
“Obviously, I’m not a guy who is going to overpower you velo(city) wise,” said O’Linger. “I just try to attack guys and make them get themselves out.”
Outside of the fastball, which SoxProspects has topping out at 88 mph, he features a changeup and slider. The changeup, in particular, has worked wonders for O’Linger in his professional career, as it is his most-heralded pitch. O’Linger, however, is currently toying with the idea of adding a another pitch to his arsenal.
“I have been trying the last couple of weeks to develop a curveball. I would kind of go with a combination of fastball, slider and change. My slider and changeup are both around the same speed, so get the curveball around 74-75 and maybe get it a little bit slower and make them guess a little more. Give them something else to think about.”
Adding a fourth pitch could certainly give the Florida native more options to work with. He also praised Greenville Drive pitching coach Bob Kipper for the work he does preparing him and the other pitchers. They hold pitcher meetings before every series and, O’Linger told me, they are very comprehensive and breakdown opposing hitters’ tendencies. A combination of this and in-game feel help the “pharmacist” (O’Linger’s nickname) make adjustments on the mound.
“There are certain times where if there’s a certain guy I really want to see or I struggled against last time, I’ll go look at it and see what he did last time and what I did last time — what I was good at, what I was bad it. So, a lot of it is listening to pitchers meetings and a lot it is reading swings when you’re out there, too. If you’re trying to attack a guy low and in and he’s on it, you know you kind of have to make an adjustment.”
Circling back to the beginning of his tenure (2017) with the Red Sox organization, he made pit stops with the short-seasoned Lowell Spinners and High-A Salem Red Sox in his first partial season.
With the Spinners, he picked right where he left off towards the end of his career with Davidson. O’Linger compiled a stellar 2.03 ERA and 2.55 FIP in 48 and 2/3 innings. He managed to strike out over a batter an inning.
As a member of the Salem Red Sox during the same year, he endured some hardship. He did, however, only make two starts with them. It was too small of a sample to extract meaningful data from.
He got up to Salem again this season and the tale was similar: struggles in a small sample. Despite the fact, O’Linger was able to make it even higher up the minor league ladder with a spot start for Double-A Portland on June 8th of this year.
“It was awesome,” O’Linger said with a reminiscent grin. “To see Hadlock field, I mean, that was… it was a lot different. Because I had been in Salem a little bit last year and a little bit this year, but to go up there and be in the Northeast, you’re around a lot, a lot of Red Sox fans. So, it was really cool. Packed house, the atmosphere was just a little different. It was a really cool experience. Struggled a little bit that day, obviously, but hopefully something, you know, I can build off of and get better next time.”
Durin O’Linger‘s story is one which everyone should feel compelled to root for. To some degree, he is an underdog in the baseball world. Perhaps he is even in the midst of his own Cinderella story; stories which we unconsciously root for while watching elite talent play on the big stage.
Halfway through the first game of a day/night doubleheader, the jumbotron played a video of O’Linger answering wholesome questions. It was evidently designed to engage the fans with the player, making the former feel closer to the product on the field. While there were not many in attendance to see it due to sporadic downpours, the warm, amicable and genuine personality of Durin O’Linger was on display.
That might not mean much in the result-driven world of baseball, but it does mean a lot to the people who come across him. In other words, it makes it a whole lot easier to cheer on Durin O’Linger as he attempts to do the improbable task of becoming a Major League Baseball player.